Country Reviews of Social Assistance in Crises - IDS OpenDocs

 
Country Reviews of Social Assistance in Crises - IDS OpenDocs
Country Reviews of Social
Assistance in Crises
A compendium of rapid assessments of the nexus
between social protection and humanitarian assistance
in crisis settings.

Contributors: Habiba Mohamed (Iraq, Lebanon), Carolina Szyp
(Jordan, Mali), Dorte Thorsen (Niger), Imogen Bellwood-
Howard (Northern Nigeria), Calum McLean (Somalia), Daniela
Baur (Yemen) and Paul Harvey, Jeremy Lind, Daniel Longhurst
Rachel Sabates-Wheeler, Rachel Slater, Amy Warmington.

June 2021

 Implemented by

Better Assistance in Crises (BASIC) Research (funded by UKAid) aims to inform policy and
programming on how to help poor and vulnerable people cope better with crises and meet their
basic needs through more effective social assistance. All costs related to BASIC Research are
covered by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.
Contents
Acronyms...............................................................................................................................................iv
Introduction ............................................................................................................................................1
Iraq ..........................................................................................................................................................2
   Introduction ...........................................................................................................................................2
   Background...........................................................................................................................................2
   Humanitarian assistance .......................................................................................................................2
   Social protection assistance..................................................................................................................3
   Challenges and opportunities ................................................................................................................4
      What works ...........................................................................................................................................................4
      Inclusion ................................................................................................................................................................5
      Climate vulnerability and resilience ......................................................................................................................5
  Conclusion ............................................................................................................................................6
Jordan .....................................................................................................................................................7
  Introduction ...........................................................................................................................................7
  Background...........................................................................................................................................7
  Humanitarian assistance .......................................................................................................................7
  Social protection assistance..................................................................................................................8
  Challenges and opportunities ................................................................................................................9
      Displacement and refugees ..................................................................................................................................9
      Covid-19................................................................................................................................................................9
      Livelihoods and transformation ...........................................................................................................................10
      Technology, risks and accountability ..................................................................................................................10
      Climate vulnerability and resilience ....................................................................................................................11
  Conclusion ..........................................................................................................................................11
Lebanon ................................................................................................................................................13
  Introduction .........................................................................................................................................13
  Background.........................................................................................................................................13
  Humanitarian assistance .....................................................................................................................13
  Social protection assistance................................................................................................................14
  Challenges and opportunities ..............................................................................................................15
      Refugees .............................................................................................................................................................15
      Politics and inclusion ..........................................................................................................................................16
      Covid-19 response ..............................................................................................................................................16
      Technology and accountability ...........................................................................................................................16
 Conclusion ..........................................................................................................................................17
Mali ........................................................................................................................................................18
 Introduction .........................................................................................................................................18
 Background.........................................................................................................................................18
 Humanitarian assistance .....................................................................................................................18
 Social protection assistance................................................................................................................19
 Challenges and opportunities ..............................................................................................................20
      Humanitarian principles and the role of the state ...............................................................................................20
      Climate vulnerability and resilience ....................................................................................................................20
      Technology, datafication and risks .....................................................................................................................21
      What works .........................................................................................................................................................22
  Conclusion ..........................................................................................................................................22
Niger ......................................................................................................................................................23
  Introduction .........................................................................................................................................23
  Background.........................................................................................................................................23
  Humanitarian assistance .....................................................................................................................23
  Social protection assistance................................................................................................................24
  Challenges and opportunities ..............................................................................................................25

                                                                                                                                                                               ii
Climate vulnerability and resilience ....................................................................................................................25
      Displacement, refugees and migration ...............................................................................................................26
      Humanitarian principles, politics and the role of the state ..................................................................................26
      Gender and inclusion ..........................................................................................................................................27
      What works .........................................................................................................................................................27
 Conclusion ..........................................................................................................................................27
Northern Nigeria ...................................................................................................................................28
 Introduction .........................................................................................................................................28
 Background.........................................................................................................................................28
 Humanitarian assistance .....................................................................................................................28
 Social protection assistance................................................................................................................29
 Challenges and opportunities ..............................................................................................................30
      What works .........................................................................................................................................................30
      The role of the state and the politics of social assistance ..................................................................................31
      Financing, value for money and accountability ...................................................................................................31
      Conflict, violence and instability ..........................................................................................................................31
      Displacement and refugees ................................................................................................................................32
      Climate vulnerability and resilience ....................................................................................................................32
  Conclusion ..........................................................................................................................................32
Somalia .................................................................................................................................................34
  Introduction .........................................................................................................................................34
  Background.........................................................................................................................................34
  Humanitarian assistance .....................................................................................................................34
  Social protection assistance................................................................................................................35
  Challenges and opportunities ..............................................................................................................35
      What works .........................................................................................................................................................35
      Technology, risks and accountability ..................................................................................................................36
      Humanitarian principles and the politics of social assistance .............................................................................37
      Climate vulnerability and resilience ....................................................................................................................37
  Conclusion ..........................................................................................................................................38
Yemen ...................................................................................................................................................39
  Introduction .........................................................................................................................................39
  Background.........................................................................................................................................39
  Humanitarian assistance .....................................................................................................................39
  Social protection assistance................................................................................................................40
  Challenges and opportunities ..............................................................................................................40
      What works .........................................................................................................................................................40
      Technology, risks and accountability ..................................................................................................................41
      Counter-terrorism ................................................................................................................................................42
      Livelihoods and transformation ...........................................................................................................................42
      Climate vulnerability and resilience ....................................................................................................................43
  Conclusion ..........................................................................................................................................43
Bibliography .........................................................................................................................................44

                                                                                                                                                                         iii
Acronyms
ACF        Action Contre la Faim (Action Against Hunger)
ASP        adaptive social protection
CBA        cash-based assistance
DFID       (UK) Department for International Development
DG ECHO    European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations
DRM        disaster risk management
DRR        disaster risk resilience
EWEA       early warning early action
FAO        Food and Agriculture Organization
FCDO       (UK) Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office
FEWSNET    Famine Early Warning Systems Network
GDP        gross domestic product
GESI       gender equality and social inclusion
HRP        Humanitarian Response Plan
IDP        internally displaced people/person
IMF        International Monetary Fund
KII        key informant interview
MIS        management information systems
NGO        non-governmental organisation
NRC        Norwegian Refugee Council
RRM        rapid response mechanism
SASPP      Sahel Adaptive Social Protection Programme
SRSN       shock-responsive safety net
UNDP       United Nations Development Programme
UN ESCWA   United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia
UNFCCC     United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
UNHCR      United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
UNICEF     United Nations Children’s Fund
UN OCHA    United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
UNRWA      United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East
USAID      United States Agency for International Development
USR        unified social registry
WASH       water, sanitation and hygiene
WFP        World Food Programme
WMO        World Meteorological Organization

                                                                                            iv
Introduction
This collection brings together brief overviews of the social assistance landscape in eight fragile and
conflict-affected settings in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East: Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Mali, Niger,
Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen. These overviews were prepared as part of Better Assistance in Crises
(BASIC) Research, a multi-year programme (2020–24) supported by the Foreign, Commonwealth and
Development Office (FCDO) of the UK government. BASIC Research aims to inform policy and
programming on effective social assistance in situations of crisis, including for those who are
experiencing climate-related shocks and stressors, protracted conflict and forced displacement.
Social assistance encompasses social transfers (of cash, supplementary food and vouchers), public
works programmes, fee waivers, and subsidies with the primary aim of reducing poverty and vulnerability
among people affected by crises. Social assistance programmes often incorporate a variety of other
secondary objectives: preventing negative coping and risky behaviours; building human capital;
strengthening livelihoods as well as adaptive capacities to withstand the impacts of global climate
change; building the state–citizen contract; empowering women and girls; and achieving social justice. In
crisis-affected settings, social transfers and public works programmes are the most important and
prevalent types of social assistance interventions. These are directed, coordinated and delivered through
a complex architecture that incorporates state agencies and offices, international and non-governmental
organisations, civil society, armed groups and other non-state public authorities. Social assistance is
provided alongside, and overlaps with, humanitarian aid, including cash, food, vouchers and other basic
assistance. In many places, crises persist, as do conditions that are neither peaceful nor in full-blown
conflict, often for long periods. Humanitarian aid can become a perennial feature in such contexts.
Social assistance supports the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable and hard-to-reach
populations, as they are living through crises. Yet the provision of social assistance is often patchy and
thinly spread, inadequately funded, and ill-timed in relation to when shocks occur. Assistance can be
denied to specific populations who are made subject to various identity and legal signifiers (such as
ethnicity, age or refugee status). It is also susceptible to local-level politics and contestations around
public authority. BASIC Research explores these and other related challenges across a number of
themes: ‘what works’ (for routine, effective and efficient delivery); financing and value for money; risk,
accountability, and technology; climate vulnerability and resilience; displacement; politics, principles and
the role of the state; inclusion; and livelihoods and transformation.
Between December 2020 and February 2021 a research team conducted an initial mapping of social
assistance programmes currently being funded in the eight countries explored here. The team
implemented a rigorous but rapid review of available published and grey literature, stakeholder
consultations with FCDO country offices, key aid agencies, and researchers, and analysis of the
applicability and researchability of the main BASIC Research themes. Background reports on each
country were prepared to support decisions on where to conduct longer-term research later in 2021.
From the eight countries explored here, the BASIC Research programme selected four focus countries:
one that is experiencing protracted conflict and is partly accessible for research activities; another with
protracted conflict and more restricted access; one Francophone country; and another that hosts a large
forcibly displaced population. Deeper collaborative work with operational and in-country partners will
begin this year in these four countries, with the aim of supporting research on thematic priorities and to
feed into current debates on social assistance in crises.
This collection of overviews presents the key insights from the earlier background reports. The primary
objective was to establish where BASIC Research could add value to other existing work; thus, these
overviews should not be interpreted as comprehensive assessments of the situation in any of the eight
countries. Nonetheless, they will be of interest to researchers, planners and officials who are involved in
finding ways of improving social assistance at the intersection of social protection systems and
humanitarian aid.

                                                                                                              1
Iraq
Introduction
The landscape of social assistance in Iraq is affected by a near ‘perfect storm’ of compounding factors –
conflict, ethno-religious tensions, poverty and socioeconomic shocks. Long-standing social assistance
programmes exist alongside substantial, shock-responsive humanitarian programming. This prompts key
questions about how established programmes can be maintained during periods of instability, and how
humanitarian and government-led assistance can be coordinated.

Background
Iraq has been in ‘transition’, with limited success, for nearly two decades: from dictatorship to
‘democracy’, from an oil-based to a more diversified economy. The US-led invasion in 2003 was followed
by spates of sectarian violence until 2011. More recently, ISIL has occupied parts of Iraq. Beyond ISIL,
multiple militias operate outside the state’s control, with only limited success in regularising and
integrating them into the Iraqi Security Forces. Tensions between the US and Iran are playing out in a
proxy war in Iraq. At best, the country is in an unpredictable political, security and economic situation.
Iraq’s dependency on oil for income distorts the economy. Oil generates around 96 per cent of
government revenues, but relatively few employment opportunities. The public sector is Iraq’s main
employer, with employment perceived by many to depend on patronage. Iraq has one of the lowest
labour force participation rates in the world, especially among women, youth and IDPs (Devereux 2015;
OCHA 2020). Unemployment rates are high, particularly in governorates (provinces) where agriculture is
the primary source of employment. Nearly 20 per cent of Iraqis live below the poverty line, with a slightly
higher percentage among children. Beyond income poverty, 42 per cent of the population experience at
least one form of deprivation from the following list: education, health, living conditions or financial
security (UNICEF 2020).
The governance of Iraq is also complex. Tensions ran high between the Federal Government of Iraq and
the Kurdistan Regional Government following a Kurdistan independence referendum in 2017.
Relationships have somewhat eased, allowing more travel and commerce, but the situation remains
finely balanced.

Humanitarian assistance
To add to the lasting impacts of the 2003 war and subsequent insurgent violence, twin shocks occurred
in 2014: a sharp decline in oil prices and ISIL’s occupation of Iraq’s northern and western governorates.
The occupation displaced more than 354,000 households (around 2.1 million individuals) in the second
half of the year and cut other households off from the rest of the country.
Since 2014, cash assistance has grown in significance in the response for refugees, IDPs, returnees and
host communities. Multipurpose cash grants (MPG) allowed humanitarian agencies to play a critical role
in responding to the needs of those affected by conflict, allowing them to address a wide range of needs,
at least in the short term. Major stakeholders (donors, INGOs, UN agencies and even the Government of
Iraq) have worked towards consolidation and harmonisation of cash assistance action in two main ways:
the adoption of MPGs to meet the various needs of beneficiaries, with the possibility of additional
transfers to respond to specific needs (i.e. Covid-19 response); and increasing collaboration between
INGOs working in Iraq to deliver cash assistance. The capacity to deliver using cash is predicated on
functional financial services – these, although outdated, are in place throughout the country, except for
some areas closer to borders. The Cash Consortium for Iraq and Cash Working Group provide good

                                                                                                            2
case studies of the practicalities of harmonising cash-based responses. The experiences highlight two
notable challenges: the difficulty in sharing information about or combining payment systems, and the
difficulties in harmonising targeting approaches and criteria.
Initiatives by the Ministry of Displacement and Migration (MoDM) provide good examples of programmes
that are neither solely social assistance nor humanitarian but combine elements of both. International
agencies, such as UNHCR and WFP, work through the ministry to provide refugees and IDPs with
rations, winter clothing and heating.
Some 4.5 million IDPs have returned home since 2017. However, return has been challenging for many
– as camps were closed, some households were further displaced, and others were not accepted on
returning to their communities due to perceived but unproven affiliations to extremist groups.
Reconstruction proceeds slowly, with limited progress on repairing damaged infrastructure.
In common with other parts of the region, a divided approach persists between assistance provided to
Syrian refugees and that given to Iraqi IDPs and host communities. Furthermore, refugees are often
overlooked in the humanitarian response in Iraq. There are multiple causes for that: first, their relatively
small number (around 280,000 individuals); and, second, their relatively good integration into the
Kurdistan region thanks to similar linguistic and ethnic backgrounds. Most refugee-focused assistance
comes from UNHCR through a vulnerability-based cash transfer programme, which now provides
US$250 monthly for 18 months using mobile money transfers. The support to the refugees has been
criticised for lacking a clear exit strategy, as most recipients will require long-term support that goes
beyond the current cash assistance (Savage 2021).

Social protection assistance
Although social assistance (and wider social protection) programmes in Iraq are long-standing, the
government lacks a central strategy for social protection and its actions lack coordination and
cooperation across the various institutions mandated to oversee and deliver programmes. Different
agencies have conflicting priorities and a limited focus on long-term goals. In turn, this has resulted in
fragmentation and exclusion errors where many poor and vulnerable families are left out of programmes.
Despite these challenges, the government has committed between 7 and 12 per cent of public spending
to social protection since 2007 (although predominantly in support of public sector pensions), and the
Social Protection Law No. 11 of 2014 sought to overcome the shortcomings of the system. The twin
shocks of 2014 hindered this but commitments to social protection remain in the National Development
Plan and Poverty Reduction Strategy 2028–22, and the path forward was articulated in the Social
Protection Roadmap 2015–19.
The main social assistance programmes are a Public Distribution System (PDS) and the Social Safety
Net. The PDS – a ration card system – provides in-kind food assistance and subsidies on other basic
consumption goods. The PDS reaches almost all Iraqi households although not all households receive
the same level of benefits (less than 5 per cent of beneficiary households received the full package in
2011 (Ministry of Planning, Republic of Iraq 2011)). The system was originally designed as a temporary
measure to buffer households against the hardships resulting from international actions. It provided a
functional safety net even through periods of great upheaval and economic restructuring in the 2000s. In
2014, the PDS was reduced from eight items to four, due to reduced oil revenues. While untargeted
subsidies are unpopular among international agencies, the experiences of the PDS in Iraq could provide
a good case study of when and how different social assistance instruments can be sustained in periods
of violent conflict and upheaval.
The Social Safety Net (SSN) is the largest cash transfer programme in Iraq, benefiting around 8.2 per
cent of the population. It provides benefits to specific vulnerable groups (widows, orphans, people with
disabilities and/or chronic illness, married students, older people). It is important to note that, through the
work of social workers, the SSN seeks to provide a social integration function: by delivering the safety
net, the aim is to ‘reinstitute trust between citizens and the state’, ‘integrate the marginalised and

                                                                                                               3
destitute’, and ‘promulgate a message of social reconciliation and national cohesion’ (World Bank
2017: 3).
State pensions are also a central part of the social protection landscape. The (very generous) pension
scheme has undergone multiple changes since 2003 given its burden on the national budget. In 2006
the World Bank estimated that pension payments absorbed nearly 5 per cent of GDP and, despite
subsequent reforms, reached only a quarter of the population. It was reformed again in 2014, to bring in
all formally employed people, with different taxation schemes for public and private sector works. The
long-term strategy is to reduce, significantly, the pension that a single family can receive (Savage 2021).
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has a separate legal, administrative and operational
framework for social protection although its programmes (pension, PDS and a cash-based SSN) largely
mirror the federal system. In 2016, the KRG adopted a new Social Protection Strategy including reforms
to pensions and the development of a new SSN addressing the needs of poor households. By 2019,
UNDP published a revised SSN blueprint for KRG that draws strongly on the proxy means-testing
approaches of the Cash Working Group and Cash Consortium for Iraq. Progress on the pilot was
delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic (Ibid.).

Challenges and opportunities
What works
Delivery systems and modalities
A mapping study conducted by the Cash Working Group in Iraq shows that mobile money service
providers, Hawala services (trust-based money transfers outside formal banking systems), e-vouchers
such as RedRose and SCOPE, and pre-paid cards such as SWITCH and NassPay, are the most
commonly used transfer mechanisms. However, it is worth noting that Hawala dealers and mobile
money service providers were unable to distribute cash in a timely manner, due to Covid-19-related
curfew measures, bank closures and rapidly drained liquid cash. An electronic cash transfer mechanism
called QI card is used by the MoDM to transfer cash to citizens. There is less evidence on the suitability
of other mechanisms, such as NassPay, for humanitarian cash assistance. Regarding mobile money,
more than 70 per cent of Iraqis have mobile phones. The major challenge is the basic digital literacy
required to deal with the system (for example, receiving SMS messages or withdrawing cash).
Overall, these challenges have pushed the government more towards using mobile money transfers for
the Covid-19 cash response. Pre-paid cards could provide an electronic and scalable system. If
humanitarian agencies start using them, this could pave the way for linking humanitarian assistance and
social protection (CWGI 2020). Further assessment is needed of the appropriateness of the options for
integrating humanitarian cash assistance with government programmes.
Targeting
Debates about targeting abound in Iraq. The PDS is criticised for being untargeted – although it provides
near universal access, not all households receive a full package of benefits. In contrast, the SSN is
categorically targeted. This approach raises questions about the effectiveness of the current targeting
systems (UNICEF 2018) with estimates suggesting that the poorest quintile received about 25 per cent
of total transfers (World Bank 2017). Inclusion and exclusion errors may arise because lists of benefiting
households are not regularly updated (Savage 2021). Errors also raise questions about the
appropriateness, practicality and effectiveness of different mechanisms for targeting in situations where
violent conflict affects operations and where social assistance may be deployed as part of peace-building
or reconstruction efforts. Altogether, Iraq’s suite of programmes provides useful comparisons between
universal, categorical and more targeted approaches. Tracking the development of proxy means-testing
systems could offer important insights into the balance of politics (with a small ‘p’), effectiveness and
efficiency in driving future decisions about targeting.

                                                                                                          4
Coordination
Divisions between the central government in Baghdad and the KRG based in Erbil have resulted in a
dual administrative system for social protection programming. This has led to poor engagement and
cooperation with humanitarian and development actors across the country (Savage 2021). Other reports
also suggest that this lack of coordination between different local governments, the central government
in Baghdad and the humanitarian and development actors is not unique to the Kurdistan region, but is
quite widespread in other governorates too. The problem tends to disrupt many actors from delivering
their programmes, especially in areas most in need and most affected by conflict (OCHA 2020).

Inclusion
Iraq remains subject to social, ethnic, religious and sectarian tensions with multiple dimensions: between
Sunni and Shia, and between and among Christians and Yazidis, Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen.
Unemployment reaches 35 per cent among youth, and women are routinely under-represented in the
labour market. Gender and age intersect in particular with the status of refugee or IDP.
Another inclusion problem is that of families related to ‘extremists’ or members of ISIL. Families (around
1.5 million people) with perceived but unproven affiliations to extremist groups are socially stigmatised in
camps and host communities, unwelcome in their areas of origin, and prone to exclusion from social
services due to discrimination – both by communities and government officials. Discrimination in the
local job market affects the long-term wellbeing of these households, with female-headed households
having even further reduced economic opportunities. Both household types are extremely reliant on their
social groups and debt networks to get by, particularly because existing government programmes are
not yet absorbing them (OCHA 2020; Savage 2021).

Climate vulnerability and resilience
The focus on the impact of conflict in Iraq tends to mask the impacts of climate change on poor and
vulnerable households. Climate change in Iraq manifests in prolonged heatwaves, erratic precipitation,
higher temperatures and increased disaster intensity. In 2013, severe flooding damaged approximately
75,000 acres of cropland in southeast Iraq. Heavy seasonal rains during the first few months of 2019
caused flooding and damage in several governorates. The agricultural production of vegetables for 2017
in Basra was 60 per cent less than planned due to drought (Stephen 2016). Several governorates still
face potential water shortages. Climate change, specifically extreme weather events in the southern
governorates, including the recently recorded high temperatures and flash floods, have further affected
the livelihoods of vulnerable households and is forcing their migration to urban areas. Around 53 per cent
of the population are estimated to be vulnerable to food insecurity (OCHA 2020) – caused by the
increasing number and duration of droughts and more prevalent sand and dust storms that result in
significant declines in agricultural yields and livestock production. Between 2007 and 2009, cases of
internal displacement in Iraq were mainly due to drought (OCHA 2020). The government refers
increasingly to ‘climate migrants’. Levels of water and soil salinity, especially in the Euphrates River
basin, are high, and expected to increase. Water stress will increase and efficient irrigation techniques
are crucial to maintain productivity and food security (Adamo et al. 2018). Ageing or war-damaged water
infrastructure, pollution, and uncertain agreements with neighbouring countries on the sharing of river
water all contribute to a lack of clean water for household use.
Climate change effects especially impact on women; in a drought situation, women and girls bear the
increased burden of going longer distances to fetch water and meet other basic household needs. In
2017, the agriculture sector provided employment for an estimated 44 per cent of the total female
workforce. However, limited financial proficiency, poor access to approaches or technologies that
promote agricultural productivity, compounded by capacity constraints, all prevent women from
diversifying their livelihoods and maintaining the food security of their households (Vilardo and Bittar
2018). Women in rural areas face greater food insecurity as well as more barriers to education, formal
employment and access to finance; this hinders their progress out of poverty and limits their adaptation
to climate change.

                                                                                                           5
Conclusion
Successive economic, political and security shocks in Iraq have led to a significant increase in the
poverty rate since 2014. Support from social assistance is substantial: in 2017, UNICEF found that 10
per cent of people live in a household that was reached by at least one form of social cash transfer (3.3
million people), and 96 per cent received in-kind food assistance from the PDS. The Covid-19 pandemic
has worsened poverty and increased the role of social assistance mechanisms. At the same time,
declining state revenues and lack of coordination and effectiveness mean that clear changes are
necessary. Therein lies the ‘Catch-22’: any drastic or poorly calculated changes will likely result in further
humanitarian and political crises (Savage 2021). A further irony is that numerous efforts to revise and
reform social assistance to make it fitter for the shock-prone landscape it is situated in – particularly to
make it more crisis-sensitive – have been undermined or disrupted by those very shocks.
It is precisely because of these challenges that Iraq provides an opportunity to understand better the
features of humanitarian and social assistance that can be sustained during periods of conflict,
displacement and upheaval, across a range of instruments, and with different configurations of
operational actors.

                                                                                                            6
Jordan
Introduction
Jordan hosts huge numbers of refugees from Syria and other countries, putting social assistance
structures under strain in contexts already affected by climate change and economic vulnerability.
Current challenges include finding entry points to integrate humanitarian and development caseloads,
especially the longer-term integration of refugees into the labour market and social systems.

Background
Jordan is a resource-poor, middle-income country where agricultural land, food self-sufficiency, energy
resources and water supply are all seriously constrained (Zureiqat and Abu Shama 2015). As a net food
importer, Jordan is particularly vulnerable to food price shocks. Its small and privatised economy is in a
precarious shape directly because of the war in Syria; border crossings were closed for prolonged
periods during the violence and insecurity, disrupting trade. The IMF has been pushing the government
to make financial reforms. Recession, debt, unemployment, a small market size, fluctuations in
agricultural production, lack of capital, and a high presence of refugees cause Jordan to seek and rely on
foreign aid (Devereux 2015).
Jordan has the second highest refugee population per capita in the world (UNHCR 2019c). It hosts more
than 2 million registered Palestinian refugees (UNRWA 2019); and some 665,000 registered Syrian
refugees (mostly in host communities) – rising to an estimated 1.3 million including unregistered Syrians
(UNHCR 2021a; UNICEF 2020a). This is in addition to 67,000 Iraqis, 15,000 Yemenis, 6,000 Sudanese
and 2,500 refugees from 52 other nationalities (UNHCR 2019b).
High unemployment and very limited formal job opportunities mean that much of the labour market is
informal, affecting refugees disproportionally. Labour laws prevent them from accessing formal jobs in
specific sectors, despite efforts to mitigate this (Amjad et al. 2017; Sahin Mencutek and Nashwan 2020).

Humanitarian assistance
Jordan has received large-scale humanitarian assistance since the Syria crisis began in 2011, in addition
to decades-long support to Palestinian refugees through UNRWA. International humanitarian funding to
Jordan was consistently above US$900m between 2013 and 2016, but dropped to US$679m in 2018
(Development Initiatives 2019).
A task force of line ministries, donors, UN agencies and NGOs provides financial support to mitigate the
impact of Syria through the Jordan Response Plan (JRP), a three-year rolling plan that is updated
annually (Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan 2020). Within this, the Jordan Humanitarian Fund (JHF)
provides flexible and timely funding to partners to address urgent humanitarian needs of Syrian refugees
and vulnerable host communities in Jordan. A provision was added in 2015 for cross-border assistance
to vulnerable, conflict-affected people in southern Syria (OCHA 2018). The JRP 2020–2022 commits to
building an integrated multi-year framework to respond in a transparent, collaborative and sustainable
way in line with the Global Compact on Refugees and the 2030 Agenda.

                                                                                                        7
Humanitarian assistance to refugees, in particular cash-based interventions (CBIs), has been a major
component of the international response to the Syria crisis.1 Local and international NGOs implement
most of the CBIs. Although initially fragmented, efforts are increasing to consolidate delivery systems
(UNHCR 2017). The Jordanian government requires that 30 per cent of beneficiaries are Jordanian.
The Common Cash Facility (CCF), a donor-funded collaborative, multi-stakeholder approach to the
delivery of cash, led by UNHCR, provides humanitarian actors with direct and equal access to a common
financial service provider. Two UN and eight other humanitarian agencies use the CCF. Its public–
private partnership approach reduces transaction costs (Gilert and Austin 2017).
Food is another common modality of assistance. WFP uses its SCOPE system to manage food
assistance for beneficiaries and transfers. The platform registers beneficiaries with biometric technology,
and creates distribution lists for partners, among other features. SCOPE provides transfer services when
local providers are unavailable (Devereux 2015). However, such consolidation of assistance under large
UN-led programmes may limit the entry points for other agencies or NGOs (Smith 2020).

Social protection assistance
The 2019–2025 National Social Protection Strategy is based on three pillars (Hashemite Kingdom of
Jordan 2019): (1) social assistance; (2) social insurance and labour market policies; and, (3) social
services run through various ministries and state bodies (UNICEF 2020b). The National Aid Fund (NAF)
is the main national non-contributory social protection provider, with monthly cash transfers to
approximately 100,000 vulnerable Jordanian families. But NAF assistance reaches only 7 per cent of
households earning less than U$S3,500 (JOD2,500) per year – no assistance goes to nearly half of
households on less than U$S10,500 (JOD7,500) per year (UNICEF 2020a). The NAF is also under-
staffed and relies on external support such as to conduct reform and household verification, performed
by UNICEF, WFP and the World Bank (Dürr 2021).
Religious institutions are prominent in social, cultural and political systems. Zakat is one of the oldest
Islamic charitable funds in the region and a key institution in Jordan’s social protection system. The
National Zakat Fund (NZF) is based on private donations, with different programmes for almost 60,000
vulnerable households and individuals, but it has a much smaller budget for cash transfers than the NAF.
Non-Jordanians including refugee populations are eligible for Zakat assistance but it is unclear how
much is channelled to refugees (Dürr 2020).
Informal social protection is shrinking. Mutual support among tribes, relatives, friends and neighbours is
particularly important for poor and vulnerable households, but this support is provided ad hoc and for a
limited period. In Jordan, only 10 per cent of all households receive regular support in this way
(International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth 2017).
Previous government action on price subsidies on food and fuel has shifted towards targeted social
assistance. School feeding (targeting girls) and public works have increasingly become popular for
Jordanians, particularly using cash transfers or food vouchers (Devereux 2015).

1   In 2016, UNHCR Jordan’s CBIs provided a record US$85m to more than 136,000 Syrian refugees in the country.
    UNHCR has adopted elements of a social protection approach targeting the most vulnerable (UNHCR 2017).
    This system is based on complex calculations and formulas, leading to confusion and tension among
    beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries. The system is different to the one used by the NAF, based on consumption
    and assets (Rai 2021).

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Challenges and opportunities
Displacement and refugees
Most refugees in Jordan live in highly populated urban areas, where many local populations already live
in precarious conditions. Refugee numbers put additional pressure on fragile urban systems that provide
housing and basic services (health, education, water, sanitation, electricity and waste collection) (Rai
2021; te Lintelo et al. 2018). Syrian refugees receive no national social protection support and only
minimal support from local NGOs (Devereux 2015). Including refugees in the national system is
politically sensitive due to concerns about how such support would be sustained if international donor
funding stops (Dürr 2020; FCDO Jordan 2021; Rai 2021). INGOs provide most social assistance to
refugees, and to vulnerable Jordanians, as per government requirements. This assistance includes cash,
vouchers and winterisation schemes, in many cases ad hoc and one-off, although some provide more
regular and unlimited transfers (e.g. NRC, Oxfam, WFP, Save the Children, UNICEF and UNHCR).
Jordan offers universal education, including to Syrian children, but students need to present a Ministry of
Interior service card (an obstacle for refugees), and many schools struggle to cope with the extra
children (who are separated into shifts by nationality). International organisations run education and
youth programmes, both in schools and camp-based (e.g. NRC and Save the Children UK) (Röth, Nimeh
and Hagen-Zanker 2017).
Theoretically, there is commitment to assist Syrian refugees. The Syrian Refugee Affairs Directorate
government agency, supported by UNHCR, manages and coordinates the Za’atari and Azraq camps to
ensure that effective, efficient assistance is provided according to international humanitarian principles
(UNHCR 2020b). The UNHCR 2021 Planning Summary includes a commitment to integrating refugees
into the national social protection system (UNHCR 2020a). The Jordan Compact has a political
commitment to integrate Syrian refugees into the formal labour market (Lenner and Turner 2019).
However, complex, frequently changing policies around borders, legal status, recognised documentation,
birth registration and other instruments undermine people’s abilities to get access to and claim
assistance (UNHCR 2019a). An agreement by government in 2018 to pilot use of the NAF delivery chain
to give assistance to refugees never materialised (Dürr 2020). Syrians originally had access to public
health care on equal terms with Jordanians, but as this became increasingly unaffordable, entitlements
were eroded. In fact, Jordan has no refugee policy and has not ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention.
Refugee caseloads are managed by humanitarian actors, particularly agencies such as UNHCR.
The situation causes local frictions. Refugees report being discriminated against by local businesses (in
terms of working conditions) and state institutions. Hosts claim that refugees benefit disproportionately
from aid and are an economic threat to local communities (te Lintelo et al. 2018). To promote social
cohesion, UNHCR Jordan together with partners advocate for the ‘One Refugee’ approach in all sectors
and services for all refugees. From July 2020, both Syrians and non-Syrian asylum seekers and
refugees can access public health at the non-insured Jordanian rate, by presenting their UNHCR
certificates (UNHCR 2020b). Yet, there are reports that UNHCR resources have benefited Syrian
refugees (and to some extent Iraqis) over non-Syrians (Somalis, Sudanese, Yemenis), in terms of
access to services, livelihoods and support networks (te Lintelo et al. 2018; Dürr 2020). It is worth noting
that Jordan has extended citizenship rights to Palestinian refugees, unlike those in Lebanon (Human
Rights Watch n.d.).
Without better alignment of programmes to national interventions and policy environments, such as on
refugees’ right to work, these challenges will be difficult to overcome (Hagen-Zanker et al. 2017; Smith
2020).

Covid-19
A joint funding mechanism set up in June 2020 to tackle informality in Jordan is looking at Covid-19
related vulnerabilities. Backed by several donors (FCDO, US, Germany, Netherlands), the mechanism

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ensures programmes are expanded to households not otherwise eligible for normal payments (FCDO
Jordan 2021).
A government-led Social Protection Response Committee (SPRC) was also organised and funded
through the ‘Himmat Watan’ Fund. Key actions include expanding the NAF, implementing the National
Unified Registry and digital payments (involving citizens only), and establishing a temporary cash
assistance programme. Almost 450,000 households benefited through new and existing cash assistance
programmes and in-kind transfers (parcels and vouchers) implemented by the NAF and the NZF
throughout the pandemic (UNICEF 2020b).
Other measures are free treatment to Covid-19 patients; a medicine delivery service; two new delivery
methods for distance learning through television and an online portal (UNICEF 2020b). Refugees are
included in the National Health Response Plan on Covid-19 (Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan 2020).
Refugees and asylum seekers get Covid-19 vaccinations free of charge, following pushes from the
COVAX Facility and UNHCR (UNHCR 2021b).

Livelihoods and transformation
With high unemployment and low labour demand, the Jordanian government recently launched its
economic empowerment plan or ‘graduation strategy’, with job placements as the entry point (Dürr
2021). It aims to expand support through labour intermediation services to reach job seekers beyond
those households benefiting from cash assistance. The EU Madad fund initiated a graduation project led
by UNICEF and ILO, for 3,000 Jordanian households (NAF beneficiaries) and 4,000 Syrian refugee
households (UNHCR basic needs cash beneficiaries) (Dürr 2020).
Informal employment (based on the contract type, duration, social security coverage) is common in
Jordan, particularly among Syrian refugees, despite government initiatives to promote formalisation of
workers and businesses. Structural constraints in the labour market, such as regulations and work
permits, push refugees towards occupations and sectors characterised by a high degree of informality,
such as construction, agriculture and services (ILO and FAFO 2020). The ILO Labour Force Survey,
which now includes migrant workers and refugees, paid specific attention to working conditions including
in the informal economy (ILO 2017). The 2019 Vulnerability Assessment Framework (VAF) data
collection tool2 includes a new section on livelihoods, debt, income and expenditure to ensure that
assistance is efficient, effective and targeted for the most vulnerable households and regions.
Much of the government’s social transfers, health and public pensions only covered Jordanians in the
formal sector. Therefore, since 2016, foreign donors (such as GIZ) and INGOs (for example, Oxfam)
have run broader cash-for-work (CFW) programmes, to support Syrian refugees and vulnerable
Jordanians; strengthen social cohesion between them; reduce labour market competition; and promote
the integration of women into economic life (Loewe et al. 2020). An impact evaluation of Oxfam’s CFW
activities in the Za’atari camp shows positive and significant impact on household wealth, income,
technical skills and women’s economic inclusion. However, beneficiary households were less likely to
engage in income opportunities other than CFW (Lombardini and Mager 2018).
In the absence of full social and economic rights for refugees, the problem of livelihoods has in some
cases been addressed through assumptions of self‐reliance, creativity and innovation, such as coding
boot camps for refugees (Pascucci 2019). These have limitations; for example, coding requires
education and language skills that not all beneficiaries possess (Schuettler and Caron 2020).

Technology, risks and accountability
Digital technology can support the coordination of aid efforts, prevent duplication and improve access to
support. UN OCHA’s ‘Who does what where’ contact management directory and UNHCR’s Inter-agency
Information Sharing Portal and Refugee Assistance Information System (RAIS) allow partner agencies to

2   VAF population studies explore different types of vulnerability dimensions across multiple sectors from a
    representative sample of registered Syrian refugees in Jordan. It contributes to reflection within UNHCR on how
    to interpret their multisectoral home visit assessments (Brown et al. 2019).

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access and update information on refugees (Favell 2015). Mobile money pilots for Syrian refugees allow
them to own an account (Dürr 2021); UNHCR beneficiaries access cash and services via a biometric iris-
scanning system installed at bank ATMs, which also aids registration (UNHCR 2020b).
The National Unified Registry (NUR), implemented in 2019 and funded by the World Bank, is an
electronic database and management system of citizens’ information designed to improve the efficiency
and accuracy of targeting mechanisms for vulnerable households (UNICEF 2020b). The NUR is used in
the state-run ‘Takaful’ social protection programme that is projected to assist up to 185,000 households
in the coming years (Dürr 2020).
Fragmentation around the design (and targeting) of social assistance systems for locals and refugees is
a problem. Further research on any harmonisation should look at efficiency gains from hybrid models
that keep eligibility criteria and funding separate but that integrate beneficiaries into one system (Rai
2021).
A major pitfall of digital technologies is that often the most poor and vulnerable are excluded, thus
increasing the digital (educational and financial) gap, especially for the most destitute and the illiterate.
Women are more affected than men (Dürr 2020; UNICEF 2020b). Failure to protect people’s identity
properly is another problem. A balance is needed between sharing people’s details and keeping highly
sensitive personal information secure (Favell 2015). A lack of internet connection or data causes
difficulties with opening and retrieving cash from e-wallets.

Climate vulnerability and resilience
Jordan’s natural aridity and droughts have exacerbated water and resource availability, and increased
variability and intensity of weather events. Climate change particularly affects vulnerable communities
due to water scarcity, land and air pollution, energy insecurity and associated costs. The Syria crisis and
the presence of refugees in different parts of Jordan, along with increased human activities, have had
significant environmental impacts, namely deforestation, land degradation, poor air quality, and
deteriorating water supply and quality (Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan 2020). The payment structure of
government electricity subsidies complicates the picture further by incentivising inefficient use of energy,
and consequently, increasing pressure on supply in highly populated areas such as the north, which has
most of the refugees. Indeed this region reportedly has higher concentrations of air pollutants directly
proportional to the population size.
Jordan’s major policy, the National Climate Change Policy and Sector Strategic Guidance Framework,
has now been extended to 2030. It emphasises adaptation rather than mitigation, with the aim of
achieving both socioeconomic development and environmental resilience, particularly focusing on water,
agriculture, energy, land use, and desertification. Internationally, Jordan remains highly dependent on
regional and global exchanges, especially for water, food and energy.
Yet, Jordan’s efforts have so far been limited. Most policymakers do not see climate change as a priority
(compared to employment, for example). There is a lack of understanding about its implications and
costs, and the benefits of action. Policymaking on climate change is not unified; plans and institutions
lack consistency, comprehensiveness, links, and common purpose. Most initiatives and projects are
driven by donors. Financing climate action requires substantial financial support from international
sources. Jordan has sought and received funding, from international climate funds and bilateral and
multilateral aid sources. However, this assistance is still not integrated into the national social protection
system (Combaz 2019).

Conclusion
Government politics on managing the displacement caseload and its unwillingness to fund parts of the
humanitarian agenda are the main barriers to research in Jordan (FCDO Jordan 2021). However, how to
include refugees in discussion and planning to build synergies between humanitarian and social
protection sectors and how to integrate humanitarian and development caseloads are areas worth

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